Kit Pascoe discovers Deshaies, Guadeloupe, is ideal for exploring the wild side of this French Caribbean island
Like many islands in the Lesser Antilles, sailing along Guadeloupe’s western coast is a frustrating mix of calms and strong gusts.
Despite this, Deshaies is a popular stop as it’s the perfect jumping-off point for Antigua and Montserrat.
It is also the ideal anchorage for other reasons.
The small village of Deshaies, is nevertheless full of colourful cafés and boutiques crammed with pretty things and a magnificent boulangerie opposite the dinghy dock.
To get to your morning croissant, you’ll first have to tear yourself away from watching the resident pelicans.
This anchorage is full of these incredible birds and you’ll frequently find them fishing from your dinghy (or evidence that they have been).
This will not be your last foray into Guadeloupe’s nature though, because after you’ve bought your baguette and filled up your water bottles, the waterfall hike awaits.
Deshaies is one of the few places where you can go and explore the jungle right from the anchorage.
On the village side of the river, the trail begins.
It’ll take you two hours to follow the tiny path or boulder-hop up the river to get to the waterfall above.
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It’s not an easy hike but it’s worth it, and I doubt you’ll see a single person.
The waterfall is hidden behind a huge rock, but you can shimmy your way around and cool off in the heavy torrents. Descend via the road just before the waterfall.
Entering the anchorage from the sea is straightforward but best done in daylight, firstly because it can be quite busy and secondly, there are lots of fishing pot markers in the approach – the Caribbean sailor’s pet hate.
They’re usually marked by small buoys but sometimes by empty bottles.
There are plenty of free-to-use mooring buoys, but local boats take many up. It’s best to anchor away from the moorings, in around 9-12m. You may want to put a good heft of chain out as the wind funnels through ferociously.
The northern side of the anchorage is shallower and rocky, so best avoided.
With a full water bottle, walk up to the school playground next to the cemetery on the north side of the bay and follow a forest trail over the headland to the exquisite beach.
Keep an eye out for Guadeloupe woodpeckers. A road will take you back quickly from the middle of the beach to Deshaies.
Deshaies is a port of entry (and exit) and you clear in/out via DIY computer in Le Pelican (leave the dinghy dock and turn right).
Provisioning is very limited, with a Spar and a tiny produce shop. There’s paid wifi across the bay and in several cafés, so you can upload photos for your friends back home.